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Conviction for leaving scene of incident reinstated by appeals court

'He knew he hit someone'

By: Bennett Loudon//April 29, 2022

Conviction for leaving scene of incident reinstated by appeals court

'He knew he hit someone'

By: Bennett Loudon//April 29, 2022

A state appeals court has reversed a lower court ruling and reinstated a conviction for leaving the scene of an incident.

Defendant Danny Novas was convicted of leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, but in February 2021, in New York city, state Supreme Court Justice Abraham L. Clott granted a defense motion to set aside the jury verdict and dismissed the indictment.

In a decision released Thursday, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, First Department, reversed Clott’s ruling, reinstated the conviction and sent the case back for sentencing.

“Defendant’s motion to set aside the verdict on the ground of legally insufficient evidence was procedurally proper,” the appellate panel wrote.

“We conclude however, that the court should have denied the motion. Defendant’s conviction of leaving the scene of an incident without reporting was supported by legally sufficient evidence, including sufficient evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the People,” they wrote.

When Novas left the scene, “he knew or had cause to know that personal injury had been caused to the victim,” the court wrote.

Trial testimony showed that Novas “knew, at least, that he was involved in an incident during which a pedestrian came into contact with his white Mercedes GLA,” the court wrote.

The pedestrian victim testified that, as he ran out into the street, the front right bumper of the car hit him on the lower left leg.

“He testified that he felt himself hit the side view mirror and front bumper and then fall to the ground,” according to the decision.

Medical records showed that the victim sustained fractures to the left leg which indicated significant force.

According to trial testimony, shortly after the contact, Novas asked the front passenger to push the side view mirror back out and asked his passengers whether they felt anything.

Photographs of Novas’ car showed damage and blue marks to the front bumper.

“A reasonable inference could be drawn that the damage to the front bumper of defendant’s car was caused by contact with the pedestrian/victim and not from a prior accident, as testified to by defendant’s sister,” according to the decision.

Surveillance video introduced at trial did not show the actual accident, but it did show the victim running into the street and a white car pass through the frame without stopping, according to the decision.

“Individuals are then seen running toward where the pedestrian/victim had run. The totality of the evidence leads to the inference that defendant saw the pedestrian/victim and felt the impact when he hit him,” the panel wrote.

Combined with other evidence, Novas’ statements denying that anything happened, or that he had been drinking, “suggest that he knew he hit someone, causing injury, and sought to conceal that fact,” according to the decision.

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